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Greater Bay Area

Hong Kong still China’s most competitive city, but Greater Bay Area has a long way to go, study shows

  • Survey findings released at International Conference on New Global Cities organised by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
  • City places 11th in terms of economic strength and sixth for sustainable competitiveness
PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 11:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 11:35pm

Hong Kong is still China’s most competitive city, the latest survey by the United Nations and China’s foremost think tank has found.

The study also concluded that China’s “Greater Bay Area” – a project that aims to link Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities into a technology and innovation hub with ambitions to rival Silicon Valley – still has a long way to go before it will be on par with the three major bay areas of the US and Japan.

The survey was carried out by 16 international researchers on 1,007 cities across the globe, and its findings were released at the International Conference on New Global Cities organised by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Nanjing, Jiangsu on Monday.

Ranked according to their economic and sustainable competitiveness, the top 200 cities included Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei and 37 cities on the mainland.

Economic competitiveness was weighted using a city’s GDP in comparison with the world’s GDP increment over five years, while the score for sustainable competitiveness took into account eight elements: economic vitality, environment, social inclusiveness, technology and innovation, global connection, institutional environment, human resources and infrastructure.

Hong Kong placed 11th in terms of economic strength but leapt seven places ahead from its placing last year to No 6 in the sustainable competitiveness ranking, making it the Chinese city with the best overall scores. The top five cities in terms of sustainable competitiveness were New York, Tokyo, London, Singapore and Los Angeles.

Shenzhen made it into the top-five league of economic competitiveness for the first time, following long-time winners New York, Los Angeles, Singapore and London. But in terms of sustainability, the city fell to 48th place from 35th last year.

In 2017, Shenzhen's GDP was 2.24 trillion yuan (US$323 billion) – only 61.1 billion yuan behind Hong Kong’s. The mainland city also had a higher growth rate of 8.8 per cent, more than two times Hong Kong’s 3.8 per cent.

Across the eight elements indexed for sustainable competitiveness, however, Hong Kong was far ahead of Shenzhen in all aspects except for economic vitality and technology and innovation, coming in among the world’s top five cities in terms of institutional environment, global connections and infrastructure, while Shenzhen was ranked 390th, 40th and 26th respectively.

Professor Ni Pengfei, director of the CASS Centre for City and Competitiveness, and a leading author of the report, said new elements and weightings introduced to the sustainable competitiveness index led to Shenzhen’s fall in the rankings.

“We brought in new elements including the human resources potential this year and adopted a different weighting system,” Ni said. He added that Shenzhen might be underestimated on the institutional system, because the research team had to use national-level data when municipal statistics were not available.

No mainland city can easily beat Hong Kong in the near future
Ni Pengfei, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

“The new calculating system also uncovered the great development potentials in Hong Kong,” Ni said. “No mainland city can easily beat Hong Kong in the near future.”

Ni said some obstacles preventing Hong Kong from realising its potential had been removed, with the increased connection with the mainland, via the high-speed rail link to Shenzhen and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge as two examples.

Other Chinese cities among the world’s top 20 this year in terms of economic competitiveness were Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing, which ranked 28th, 59th and 27th respectively for sustainable competitiveness.

“Economic competitiveness of cities around the world has been improving since the global financial crisis in 2008,” the report said. “Local demands, infrastructure, technology and innovation were the key elements of driving force.”

The report also noted that the four major bay areas in the world were important engines behind global urban development. The economic competitiveness indexes of the Tokyo Bay Area, the San Francisco Bay Area, the New York Bay Area and China’s Greater Bay Area ranged between 0.59 and 0.92 – far ahead of the global average of 0.33.

“Among the four largest bay areas, the one in San Francisco is the most developed,” the report continued, noting the starting point for the Greater Bay Area was “rather low” and its rate of development “high”.

Can China’s ‘Greater Bay Area’ match its New York and San Francisco counterparts?

The sustainable competitiveness score for the Greater Bay Area was also the lowest among the four.

“Technology and human resources have the greatest impacts on cities’ sustainable competitiveness,” the report said.

According to the 2017 technology and innovation index cited by the report, China scored 0.361 – half of America’s score of 0.664. The US was found to be the most attractive for high-quality immigrants, with 13 of its cities among the top 20 in terms of human resources potential.

Su Xinqi is reporting from Nanjing